I Am

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It is Jesus who said, "I am the Bread of Life." He said, "I am the Light of the World. I am the door. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." In today's text, He makes the most shocking and provocative statement of all. In today's text, He challenges you and me to make up our minds about Jesus that either He is a liar, either He is a lunatic or He is the Lord. He says, "Before Abraham was born, I Am."

Brother Ron shared that statement that God made to Moses there at the burning bush when Moses asked, "What name do I give you when the people ask?" He said that His name would be, "I Am." Literally in the Hebrew, the Self-Existent One. He always exists. There is really no past or future. He is ever-present. Jesus says, in today's text, that the voice that spoke to Moses was His voice. He is the great I Am. The challenge for you today is to see Jesus not as a great teacher, not as a great philosopher, not as a great prophet, not as a learned rabbi, but as God…the self-existing, always present God Himself. Not just God the Son, for that is His manifestation to us, but God. He is Holy God.

It is that deity that He challenges the Jews with today. In the last portion of John, chapter 8, in fact all through John 8 we have seen such challenges that Jesus has made with the Jews that were there in the temple there at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles. We saw the woman caught in adultery, and Jesus boldly forgiving her of her sins as thought He was God and able to do that. We see that Jesus says, "I am that water that was being poured out on the altar," at that celebration there at the Feast of Tabernacles. He said, "I am the light of the world," that was symbolized by those torches that were lit during that same festival. Time and again, He has boldly challenged the minds of those on the temple mount to understand that He is the Messiah. He is the very God.

As we come to verse 48 today, we see they still do not understand and their patience with this one called Jesus has finally come to an end. Verse 48, of John, chapter 8, says, "Then the Jews answered and said to Him [said to Jesus], ' Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?' Jesus answered, 'I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.'"

The Jews are exasperated. The religious leaders are at their wit's end of how to deal with Jesus' claims, how to deal with His popularity, how to deal with His wisdom that was unlike the wisdom of the Scribes and the Pharisees, so they have come really to the end of their debate and they simply start calling Him names. They say, in verse 48, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Now to call Jesus a Samaritan, for the Jew was a racial slur. They were belittling Him. They were saying He was less than human. They saw the Samaritan as a half-breed.

You know it's been said that when foes begin to insult you rather than address you, you've already won the debate. They're out of things to challenge you with, so they just start calling you ugly names. That's something we learned in school, perhaps, but it's something we keep with us. We learn it on a school ground, but we take it with us all the way into adulthood. That's what these Jews are doing. They don't know what else to say. Jesus has answered every challenge, so they just start giving a racial slur.

On top of that, they say that He is demon-possessed. After all, He doesn't agree with them, so He has to be demon-possessed because they say they must be correct, and everybody else is wrong. That's always the right way to approach things, isn't it? They are so closed-minded that those who do not completely agree with them they just write off as demon-possessed.

Interesting that Jesus doesn't even deal with the racial slur. He doesn't even raise that up to a level of needing to be responded to, but what He does do is say, "Hey, I'm not demon-possessed because I am receiving glory from God the Father." No demon would receive glory from God. He said in verse 49, "I do not have a demon, but I honor My Father and You dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges."

In other words, Jesus says, "Look at my life. Look at the way I've lived it." You want to have a strong testimony among your friends at school, among your coworkers? Live a Christian life in front of them because then all they can do is begin to attack you with name-calling. Once you show that your claim to Christ is more than just words, they can look at your life and the decisions you make and they obedience you have to the words of God, then your testimony shouts louder than anything you could say.

That's what's happening here. Jesus says, "I honor My Father. No demon would do that. I am obeying and fulfilling all of the commandments of Scripture. You make these challenges to Me, but there is nothing you can base that on. But I don't do this for My own glory," He said. Even while saying that, Jesus who's not seeking fame and glory realizes that by honoring the Father, the Father will honor Him. The Father is the one who is bringing Him this glory. The Father sends Him and He honors the Father.

Listen…Jesus is keenly aware that He is sent, and He's also supremely aware of His high dignity. He knows the throne that He came from. He knows the position of glory that He has left. He knows what is His by possession, and title, and claim. He doesn't have to lay claim to Himself. He doesn't have to boldly speak of Himself because God the Father is bringing honor in this situation.

So Jesus makes the claim of His deity by His exaltation. When He prays later on, "Not My will, but Yours be done," He's exalting the Father even there in the Garden of Gethsemane. His whole life is focused on worshipping and honoring and exalting the Father. Why? Because He wants to model for us how He wants us to live. He models for us the life He wants us to seek. When we're challenged for our faith, He wants our response to be, "Look at my life." When we're challenged for our beliefs, He wants our response to be, "I'm not seeking my own glory. I am seeking the glory of the Father." When we find ourselves in difficult, dire straits, He wants us to follow Him by saying, "Your will be done, Father, not my will. I don't want my name increased. I want it decreased. I want Your name increased among all those who would know me."

Verse 52, "Then the Jews said to Him, 'Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.'" Jesus has said that in verse 51, "If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." Literally, death he will not see is what that says in the original language. If you accept Christ as your Savior, Jesus makes the bold statement that you will never die.

The Pharisees don't understand that because they know Abraham was the great father of Israel, and he's sure enough dead. They know that prophets have come. Prophets like Daniel, prophets like Elijah, prophets like Elisha, and they are not there anymore. They have all died, and here is Jesus saying that if you believe in Me, you'll never die. They say, "You have to have a demon. The man has to be crazy," in other words.

Verse 53, they try to find out more about this claim and say, "Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?" I mean as though they haven't heard a single word that Jesus is saying. But remember I shared with you in a previous message that when they don't know God, they don't know the things of God. They can hear the words of God spoken and not comprehend them because they don't have God living in their heart. Jesus is certainly aware of this, and He doesn't back down from this. He knows He's upsetting them. He knows He is making a claim that is bold before them, and He has no intention of backing down from it.

So in 54, Jesus answered, "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." He said Abraham is alive. He said, "Abraham saw My day." It was Abraham's life in the Old Testament that projected the coming of Christ. When Abraham, at an old age, beyond years, had a child by the command of God, he foresaw in that the coming of One that might be impossible by the earth's standards, but with God all things are possible.

When he took his son, Isaac, his only son Isaac, to the top of Mount Moriah to sacrifice him and there in that bush was tangled a ram to be sacrificed in his stead, he foresaw there would come one who would make the atonement and take the place and be the substitution for our sins. Abraham, Hebrews tells us, saw an eternal city. Though it was far off, he lived every day of his life looking for that city that was yet to come.

Abraham, 2,000 years earlier, saw Christ. He saw it in the works of God before him, and every prophet who came saw the coming of Christ in the words they spoke, and the prophesies they gave and the lives they lived. Jesus is manifested in every story of the Old Testament. He is manifested in every prophesy given by the prophets of the Old Testament time and time again. From the Garden of Eden when the Seed is going to come and crush the head of Satan, through the forgiveness offered through David, through the temple praises of Solomon, to the prophesies of Daniel, and the returning prophesies of Amos and Micah, all through the Old Testament is Jesus. He is prophesied in every story, and yet, so many wonder, Who is this Jesus?

They said to Him in verse 57, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" You know they're going to get the guys in the white coats about this time. You're telling me that You know something personal about Abraham, and You're only 50 years old? Isn't it amazing that they still don't get it? Isn't it amazing that they still don't see the Messiah standing before them.

I think many of us today, we think, Boy, if only my aunt, if only my father, if only my children, if only they could just see a miracle. If only they could just see Jesus. If only they could see an angel. If only they could see the writing in the sky. If they only… Seeing is believing. If only they had some physical proof, I know they would believe. Yet, I give you these Pharisees who were raised memorizing the Old Testament, Pharisees who lived their whole lives now trying to honor the words of the Old Testament. They had the Messiah standing right in front of them, and they don't see Him. They don't believe.

You remember the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man said, "Oh, if You would just send Lazarus back from the dead, then my brothers would surely believe if they saw someone come back from the dead." Remember what Abraham said? He said, "Oh, they have the prophets. They had the Scriptures. If they won't believe that, they won't even believe if someone came back from the dead."

You, today, who believe, you do so without having to physically see lightning strike. You did so without having to physically see some magic writing of a hand on a wall. You did so by faith…the same faith that Abraham had. Abraham was called a friend of God because he had faith in God. Today, if you believe, it's not because of scientific conclusions. It's not because of just logical arguments. Oh, there may be many of those, but the reason that you'll ever believe is by faith because the Holy Spirit of God convicts you of your need for a Savior, of your own depravity, and you begin to see and to discover that's only found in a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ, and He is the only One.

He who said, "I Am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me." If you believe that with your heart today, if you live that with your heart today, you do so by faith. If you are a person of faith, then you have to be a person who honors Christ. You have to be one who honors the Father. You have to be one who is willing to worship. Listen what Jesus said in response to their claim of His being less than 50 years old. Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Now the I AM, we get that back from Exodus…that phrase that lights up the Jewish mind. They know exactly what that phrase means. That is the name of God. It is the name of the self-existing One. Jesus, here, is very clearly, without any doubt saying, "I am God."

He says, "Before Abraham was…" Literally, before Abraham was born, I AM. They're saying, "Well, you're not 50. How can You know Abraham?" Because I have always existed. I am the self-existing God. If you ever thought, or if you have some questions about whether Jesus ever claimed to be God because there are those today who say, "Well, Jesus never said He was God," well let me just draw your attention to verse 59, and let the Jews testify for you because it says, "They took up stones to throw at Him." Why? Because of His blasphemy.

They saw His statement, "I Am," as blasphemous, as the ultimate insult to God. They had no question. They had no doubt about what He said He was. They knew He was claiming to be God Himself. My friends, the choices before us remain this morning. If Jesus did exist, and His claim to be God is true, then He is nothing less than Lord. He is nothing less than the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Lord of life. He holds all life, even yours, in His hands.

If He existed and His claim is true, and if that is true, and I believe it is, if we recognize Him as Lord, then it's time to worship. We're to be gone with the idea that God is our pal. We're to be gone with the idea that He's the Big Man Upstairs. We're to see Him as the Creator God. We have to take into account all that we owe Him. When we do, we realize that He deserves more than the half-spirited praise we offer Him. He deserves more than the half-hearted efforts we give at praying to Him. He deserves more than the passive way we approach His Word. He deserves all.

We have to realize getting excited about sports and not about Him is an insult to God. We must realize that pursuing profit and not eternity is worse than spitting in His face. We have to understand that investing time and money for our own recreation while neglecting the eternal is offensive to the heart of God. For we are called to love Him with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength. That's true worship. That's the evidence of a choice that accepts and receives Jesus as Lord…nothing less and nothing else. He is the priority of life if you understand that He is the Lord of all.

To say that He is I Am means that He is the Creator. It means that the words He says and the words He leaves us carry far more weight than that of a preacher, far more glory than that of a profit. When He who created you tells you to be sexually pure until marriage, it is not the old idea of someone never exposed to today's temptations, but it is the Creator who created in you those temptations and the way to escape them.

When He tells you to honor the marriage bed, He does so not as a marriage counselor alone, but as the God who created you, as the God who created the marriage. When He tells you to honor Him with your life, He does so as the giver of that life, not just as a prophet, not just as a philosopher, but as the One who gives you the oxygen to breath, the One who knows the diseases of your body, the One who knows of the strengths of your character and the One who still calls on you to make Him the priority of your life if He is the great I Am.

If He is the I Am, then when He says, "Don't forsake the assembly of ourselves together," that's not the request of a church growth planter. Those are the commands of the Creator God Himself. If He is the Great I Am, then when He tells you not to lie, when He tells you to live a life and to follow in the footsteps of Christ, it isn't an impossible bar that no one can cross over, it is the expectation of a Holy God who says, "Be holy for I am holy." No longer can we write it all off. No longer can we excuse it all off because it's not some man's philosophy. It is the words of the Great I Am…the Great I Am.

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